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Don't Sleep on the Orlando Magic
By Brian Kimball Published: 08/20/2009
Actions speak louder than words and...threats. Especially in the Eastern Conference of the NBA. The Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavs have vowed to make it to the Finals this upcoming 2009-2010 season after a vigorous off season of personnel changes, but that road is long and narrow. The Orlando Magic are still the undisputed Eastern Conference champs and will be at least until next June when a new champion will be crowned or re-crowned.
In Cleveland, all of the focus is on Shaquille O'Neal having joined the team and the impact he'll have there. In Boston, everyone's looking at veteran Rasheed Wallace's presence there and the effect he'll have on the team, especially in the event of an injury. At the end of the day, the Magic are looking as good as they did last year, and better. Here's a rundown as to the situation there:
PG - Not a lot has changed. Jameer Nelson started the upward trend and Anthony Johnson was his backup. Same situation. Rafer did a really good job in the 3 playoff series against Philly, Boston, and Cleveland, but he would not mess well as a number 2 or potential 3 PG.
PF. Rashard Lewis will pick up where he left off (after his suspension, of course), but the position is deeper here than it was last year. Tony Battie has always played hard, but Brandon Bass is simply stronger, younger, faster, and more valuable. Adding to some more depth, Ryan Anderson is a legitimate threat from three point land and should be an interesting complement to Lewis's abilities.
C: Business as usual. Dwight Howard at center is about as much as any NBA team could possibly ask for. Backing him up will be Marcin Gortat.
SG - This is one of the more worrisome positions for Orlando. Instead of Courtney Lee... Orlando will more than likely go with Mikael Pietrus and Matt Barnes backing him up or the opposite. These 2 guys will be the keys to winning games. They both are big SG/SF who can play exceptional defense. They can play SF if needed, and can handle the ball in case of some terrible accident to Jameer Nelson. They will need to produce what Courtney Lee did in points which shouldn't be hard (9 PPG)and avoid needless turnovers. This seems to be a slight upgrade over Lee since he was a rookie and still had some learning pains. Let's not forget about JJ Redick who is still a threat from behind the 3 point line and getting better and not a defensive liability as most thought... Just ask Ray Allen.
SF - Most magic fans were upset Orlando did not throw 10 Million a year at Turk but that was before they knew Vince Carter was coming. Carter is an upgrade at the SF position. He can shoot the 3 ball as well as Turk. He can handle the ball as well as Turk. He can create his own shot better than Turk which is something Orlando lacked last year. He will provide a deeper threat freeing up Dwight Howard from double teams. He can jump over most centers which will create more dunks off points and put more teams in foul trouble which Turk could not. He is shorter but I think that sacrifice was well worth it. Bigger is not always better. He can pass the ball as well as Turk. He is 32 and Turk was 31. He is a 8 time All-star player and Turk was a 0 time All-star, even though he should have been one in 2007-2008. Vince also has better defense.Vince was a major upgrade at SF.
Looking at the Magic, I don't see where they've gotten worse. All they've lost is Hedo Turkoglu and Courtney Lee, but there's now Vince Carter, Matt Barnes, Brandon Bass, and others. A worthy trade off if you ask me. The Celtics and Cavs should stop counting their chickens, and put their focus on figuring out how to beat a dangerous Magic team.